last years seed viable in 2020?

Asked March 20, 2020, 10:55 AM EDT

Can I test my seeds to find out if they are still viable?

Clackamas County Oregon

1 Response

Most seeds last for several years, however, others have a relatively short life. Although when they are properly stored in a cool, dry place, a seed's shelf life can be extended. There are two easy tests you can take to check to see if there is life left in your old seeds.

Water test: Take your seeds and put them in a container of water. Let them sit for about 15 minutes. Then if the seeds sink, they are still viable. If they float, most likely they will not sprout. For surer results, try performing a germination test.

Germination test: Take approximately 10 of your seeds and place them in a row on top of a damp—not sopping--paper towel. Fold over the paper towel and place inside a zip-up plastic bag and seal it. This helps to keep the towel moist and protected. Then place it in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the refrigerator. Make sure the location you have chosen is away from exposure to direct sunlight. This can overheat your seeds. Check the seeds about once a day to see if they have begun to germinate and to check the moisture of the paper towel. If it needs more water, carefully mist the towel until damp.

Your seeds should begin to germinate from several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. If needed, wait roughly 10 days to give your seeds the best chance. To error on the side of caution, research the germination time of your specific seeds. Once the allotted time has passed, check to see how many have germinated. If you placed 10 seeds on the paper towel, this will be pretty easy to calculate. If less than 5 seeds sprouted, your old packet may not have much success when it comes to planting. If 5 or more have sprouted, then your seeds are fine to sow.

It is best to perform this germination test around the time of planting so that the successfully sprouted seeds can be placed directly in the garden. This is also a good way to cut time and ensure the plants will flourish outdoors.

Here is a reference chart from Clear Creek Seeds on most common vegetables, herbs, and flower seeds

Good luck and happy gardening.